Spain’s Digital Nomad Visa: How it Works & Is It Worth It

In January 2023, the Spanish government passed into law its much anticipated Digital Nomad Visa. Digital Nomad Visas (DNV) have become ‘all the rage’ in countries around the world and within the EU itself.

Digital Nomad

The reason is straightforward: a DNV offers a simplified way to experience living in a foreign country while still earning an income. In the past, you either had to make a major investment or have some other means of getting a long-term visa, such as employment in a high-demand field sponsored by a local company.

As of June 2023, 58 countries globally and at least 11 in the EU had implemented some form of digital nomad visa.

Popularity and Ranking of Spain’s DNV

How Popular is Spain’s Digital Nomad Visa? Spain’s digital nomad visa (DNV) has proven quite popular since its launch in January 2023. By the end of its first year, in December 2023, around 300 foreign nationals had been granted the visa.

In fact, Spain’s DNV was recently ranked as the best in the world by the Digital Nomad Visa Index due to factors like its low income requirements and cost of living compared to other countries.

Eligibility and Application Process for Spain’s DNV

To qualify for Spain’s DNV, applicants must prove they have a university degree or at least three years of professional experience. They also need to show they can work remotely, either as a self-employed freelancer or by working remotely for a non-Spanish company.

The minimum monthly income required is €2,646 gross as of 2024, with additional amounts for family members. You can work remotely for a Spanish company if, for instance, you’re a freelancer. However, at least 80% of income must come from non-Spanish companies.

Navigating the Application Challenges

If you’re applying for yourself and your partner, you will need to prove you earn an extra 75% of the minimum wage, currently equating to an extra €1,984.50 gross. For each additional family member, like children, you must show an extra 25% of the minimum wage, or €661.50 gross per month.

Unfortunately, the application process hasn’t turned out as simple and smooth as initially promised. Bureaucracy dies hard in Spain, and there are a lot of requirements to fulfil, translated into Spanish. Some people hire an immigration expert in Spain to help.

As a British DNV recipient, Pinak Pushkar explained in a recent article in euronews.com: “The visa required a lot of paperwork, and I got the impression that the [Spanish] did not understand or welcome the UK structures of employment.” He had to provide additional proof of income to satisfy the requirements.

The basic application process involves submitting required documents to a Spanish embassy or consulate. This includes a visa application form, passport, criminal record check, health insurance policy, proof of income, and more.

My advice is that you check both the Spanish ministry website, linked to above, as well as several other websites. Each one has slightly different instructions and emphases. I’ve linked to three and some of them also provide legal services if you need help. I should add that I’m not recommending any of these as I have no past experience with them.

The fees are around €60-80 for the visa and €73 for the residence permit. The visa is initially valid for one year, then renewable for two more and a final two after that, for a total of five years.

If you stay five years legally in Spain, you can apply for a long-term residency permit, which is a much simpler process and lasts five years. After ten years as a legal resident, you can apply for citizenship.

The income requirements I noted above suggest that family members can be included on the visa.

Unlimited travel within the Schengen Area is permitted, although, of course, you cannot live elsewhere besides Spain. But, then, why would you want to. Right?

Living in Spain as a Digital Nomad

Of course, it’s useful to know whether all that effort – and the expense, especially if you hire a lawyer – is worth it. Will it add something of value to your life? Are there any drawbacks or negatives to the experience?

Spain offers an appealing lifestyle and culture for digital nomads, both with and without families. It’s cheaper than most American or major British cities, for starters. And it definitely has better weather than soggy London or chilly New York in the winter.

Major cities like Madrid, Barcelona, and Valencia provide co-working spaces and networking opportunities. Spanish cities generally have excellent and affordable public transit systems. There is also a high-speed rail network and affordable flights around the peninsula and to the Spanish islands.

Taxis are cheap, and while small towns will require a car, auto insurance is affordable and cheap. Used cars last a long time in the climate (unlike in North America, where the use of salt on the roads in winter rots them badly).

Crime rates are also low in Spain, and it’s a very social culture, meaning there are always people in the streets and cafes. Spain also has some of the best food in Europe, a lot of it grown fresh in the country.

So, good food, good climate, affordable living – what are the drawbacks?

Tackling Bureaucracy and Community Challenges

The big one is bureaucracy, which you will discover immediately upon beginning the application process. You typically need appointments to resolve problems, and getting appointments can take time. Sometimes, you need to make an appointment to make an appointment.

Bureaucracy can also make it difficult to get utilities. You will need to register your address with your local town hall. To register with the town hall, they might want to see a utility bill. To get your utilities, they might demand to see your “empadronamiento”—registration with the town hall. This is the typical kind of problem that you will find.

Finding long-term housing without a Spanish job contract can be difficult in cities like Madrid. However, this is less the case in other places, and I haven’t heard of such a problem in Málaga, for instance.

In some areas popular with digital nomads, like Barcelona, Málaga City, and the Canary Islands, the influx of foreigners has put pressure on the social fabric and led to increased resentment from locals.

Often, DNV residents earn higher wages than typical Spaniards and are used to paying higher rents. Their higher tolerance for elevated rents has led to increases in the price of local Spaniards out of the market. Frustrations have sometimes led to the appearance of anti-tourist and anti-DNV graffiti.

There’s also a concern that the transient nature of digital nomads is weakening social cohesion and trust within communities. That is less of an issue in smaller towns and cities, as there is more connection between neighbours.

Embracing the Spanish Lifestyle and Culture

But it is something to be aware of: You cannot simply walk into any big city and have a strong social network. For those with older kids, this can create challenges.

Spain is a great country to live in. For there to be a relatively easy means, like the DNV, to get a long-term visa is a real boon and opportunity. The healthy lifestyle and pace of life are amazing. The scenery is incredible from one corner of Spain to another. And the climate, especially here on the Costa del Sol, is second to none. In addition, the Spanish culture and food. The people. The sea. The wine. So much is on offer.

Families with children can give their kids an experience – and a language – that they wouldn’t be able to have otherwise. Young singles can experience the world and make a more informed decision about what will fulfil them and make them happy.

Of course, there are provisos. It’s important to see yourself as part of a community and not a tourist. That means respecting the local culture and population, as well as the environment.

But, even with those qualifications and the complications of the bureaucratic process, I think that the Digital Nomad Visa is an excellent initiative.

By Adam Neale | Opinion | April 10th, 2024

Spain’s Digital Nomad Visa: How it Works & Is It Worth It

"Looking to buy or sell a property?"